On May 25-26, industry professionals from across the country will be in Washington, D.C., to meet with senators, representatives and legislative staff into discuss legislation, issues and opportunities relevant to the promotional products industry as part of the seventh annual PPAI Legislation Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.). In the first of a four-part series spotlighting the industry practitioners taking PPAI’s message to Capitol Hill, PPB Newslink speaks with Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS, CEO of distributor CE Competitive Edge, LLC in Stevensville, Michigan, and chair-elect of the PPAI Board.

Tomasini founded Competitive Edge in 1993, working alone in a store basement. Now, more than 20 years later, she has 25 employees working in an office building overlooking Lake Michigan. She credits her success to a belief in going above and beyond customer expectations to deliver incredible levels of service.

Prior to her election to the PPAI Board of Directors in 2014, Tomasini served on the PPAI Public Relations committee, and in 2015 she served on the Certification Committee. She currently has a seat on the Government Relations Advisory Committee. Outside of the industry, her volunteer work includes a role as chair of the Lake Michigan College Board of Trustees and she regularly shares her expertise with United Way, Junior Achievement, Hospice and other organizations.

PPB Newslink: Why are you going to L.E.A.D.? What motivates you?

Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS: My overall goal for attending L.E.A.D. is to grow and protect the promotional products industry. We accomplish this by educating members of Congress about the effectiveness of promotional products and the important role that the products, suppliers and distributors play in our state and national economies. We are also able to address issues that affect our businesses, such as advertising deduction legislation, independent contractor status and so on.

We also need to let our leaders know that what they do affects us and how. L.E.A.D provides us with the opportunity to voice our concerns and put the face of a real industry professional in front of the legislators.

PPB Newslink: Have you been there before?

Tomasini: This will be my second year participating in L.E.A.D.

PPB Newslink: Were there any moments at L.E.A.D last year that really stood out for you?

Tomasini: I have heard, used and believed the phrase “The Power of Promotional Products” for years, but the real power of those words hit home when we met with members of Congress during L.E.A.D in 2015.

As we began to talk about the value of our industry, the legislators politely listened. But it was when we shared the story of the “Safe Sleep” campaign that their interest piqued. We explained that it was developed to educate new parents about the dangers of unsafe sleeping environments. The use of the onesie with the words “This Side Up” was a unique way to stress the importance of the issue through the use of a product.

This was something they could relate to and see the real value of our medium and how it directly influenced infant mortality rates. It made our meetings much more impactful. Several legislators asked to keep the sample so they could show their colleagues. This was a true “home run.”